October 2005

United States wireless telco Sprint Nextel has filed a suit in Kansas federal court against Vonage , Voiceglo Holdings, and theglobe.com (Voiceglo’s parent), claiming infringement of seven Sprint patents relating to voice over data packet technology, including VoIP. Injuctions against Vonage and Voiceglo, as well as unspecified damages, are being sought.

Vonage and Voiceglo are big business. Vonage is the largest United States independent VoIP service, with over 1 million subscribers, and is thought to be preparing for an IPO. Its service is designed to replace traditional telephones. Voiceglo offers a computer-based system that allows voice calls between computers or from computers to traditional phones, adopting a similar business model to Skype. (more…)

The Svenska antipiratbyrÃ¥n, the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau (a lobby group working against and investigating cases of alleged copyright infringement), has sued an individual for sharing movies online using the DirectConnect file-sharing protocol. The court, which heard the case last week, is expected to deliver a verdict on 25 October. (more…)

Are newspaper headlines protected by copyright?

The Japanese Intellectual Property High Court (a branch court of the Tokyo High Court) has ruled that a small Internet company’s unauthorised use of headlines from Japan’s best-selling newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, is illegal.

Strangely, although the company, Digital Alliance Corporation, has been ordered to pay about Â¥237,700 (about US$2,000 or A$2,758) to the Yomiuri, and the court said that the use of the headlines was illegal, Judge Tomokatsu Tsukahara noted that as headlines are not mentioned in Japan’s Copyright Law the law is not completely clear, and he did not order Digital Alliance to take down the headlines from its website. Presumably Digital Alliance’s use of the headlines was illegal for a reason other than copyright infringement. (more…)

One issue that is knocking around in Australia at the moment is the scope of the concept of ‘patentable subject matter’. In particular, there has been a debate – and differences between the Patent Office and at least parts of the profession over whether, to be patentable, a claimed invention has to relate to a ‘field of technology’.

The issue is whether ‘pure’ business methods – business methods which are not ‘implemented’ in the form of some kind of technology (like computer software/hardware) can be patented – or whether they aren’t really inventions in a ‘field of technology’. The issue has been raised in a new US decision of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. (more…)

I have infrequently used two online shopping services, both of which are very good. One (call it Site A) bought the other (call it Site B) some time ago, but has kept them up as separate operations, at least for consumer-facing aspects.

One interesting result is that this division seems to include the mailouts – you get one from Site A, and then shortly afterwards one from Site B. Sometimes the other way around, but usually within an hour of each other. The announcements are usually similar – discounts and hot specials, product recalls, and the like. Really, as one might expect, given they are probably working off the same raw data and inventory. (more…)

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently decided a rather fascinating case, HGI Associates v. Wetmore Printing Co.. It begins:

In this case, the Microsoft Corporation (“Microsoft”), through its subsidiary, Microsoft Licensing, Inc. (“MSLI”), and business partner, Wetmore, attempted to set an ill-conceived trap to ensnare a suspected software pirate, HGI. The trap, however, only managed to ensnare Wetmore.


APC Magazine has a very interesting ‘feature’ today on MIPI, the friendly-sounding but definitely serious enforcement arm of the Australian Record Industry (doesn’t it just make you think it’s the name of a Muppet figure from Sesame Street? Hi, I’m Mippy. Who wants to play a spelling game with me? Can you spell P-I-R-A-C-Y?)

Anyway, name jokes aside, this is a serious report. It deals with the identity of MIPI, copyright enforcement strategy in Australia and likely shifts in that strategy (will we have more criminal enforcement?), and the settlement of the Australian BitTorrent case. (more…)

Patently-O has an interesting post on eBay’s cert petition in its litigation against MercExchange.

The case raises an interesting issue of just how far traditional principles of equity are modified by statute. Leaving aside the question of the availability of interlocutory relief while the litigation is still pending, the key as regards permanent injunctions looks to be 35 USC 283. (more…)

Larry Lessig has many examples of ‘remix culture’ in his book, Free Culture. Examples of images or other existing works taken out of context and then used to make a point or make new creative works. I’ve given examples in the past, too, like the post I once did on the Tarnation film. The point that Lessig (and others) have made about ‘Remix Culture’ is the fairly simple old adage: creativity often builds on the past.

I reckon this new Unicef ad campaign against child soldiers in Belgium is a pretty good example. (more…)

The US Copyright Office has announced the start of the next rule-making on exceptions to the ban on circumventing access control measures under the US DMCA. Submissions from the public are now being sought, with hearings scheduled for April 2006.

This is relevant to us here in Australia, as the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is currently holding an inquiry on the appropriate exceptions under the currently-being-drafted Australian version of the DMCA, which we must enact as a result of the US-Australia FTA (for my previous comments on this, see Weatherall’s Law, on the sidebar, or click here and here).

Might I point out the process adopted by the US to prepare submissions on this issue? 2 months for initial comments, with a period set aside for reply comments. Overall, the US process looks decidedly less rushed than what the Australian government appears to be doing.

The Delaware State Supreme Court has held that where a defamation suit is brought against an anonymous blogger, the identification of that blogger cannot be compelled.

In John Doe No. 1 v Patrick Cahill and Julia Cahill, the court also considered the nature of blogs in dismissing the defamation claim. In particular, the court noted that:

Blogs and chat rooms tend to be vehicles for the expression of opinions; by their very nature, they are not a source of facts or data upon which a reasonable person would rely.

The court considered the nature and reliability of Internet communications when evaluating the claim. (more…)

You can find here, in this special edition of First Monday. Cool!

Bit of a round up around the place on the Stevens v Sony ruling by our High Court, which I’ve commented on already: (more…)

Whenever someone comes along and suggests re-ordering a well-accepted way of arranging things, it’s always good to scrutinize what they say carefully. Sometimes they may turn out to be a Darwin or a Copernicus. But other times, of course, they may not.

Richard Stallman tries just such a thing in respect of the term ‘intellectual property’.

It has always kind of bugged me, especially after seeing him push the theme (or meme) in one of his public lectures with vigour and eloquence. Because, basically, while he has germs of the right idea in there, he is mostly wrong. And his errors detract from a good cause, instead of assisting it. (more…)

Apparently special leave was refused by the High Court in The Panel case this morning. I assume the issue on which special leave was sought was the concept of ‘substantial part’ as interpreted in the recent Full Federal Court decision. (yes, I know – it’s already been to the High Court once. On the meaning of ‘broadcast’. But then the Full Federal Court gave a judgment on what constitutes a ‘substantial part’ of a broadcast).

So that long copyright saga draws to a close. All together now … sigh.

I’d be relieved, only that it leaves Australian copyright law on the meaning of ‘substantial part’, particularly as it relates to Part IV subject matters, pretty much incomprehensible (hat tip: Michael Handler for passing on this news).

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